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by: Walt Wells - August 20, 2007

My entre into the world of Arizona was seeing them perform at a Greenpoint club while they had a professional crew there to film the show. 3 songs in and I was their willing slave and disciple (and they hadn’t even hit stride yet for that show). I met a freelance writer afterwards who was looking for a place to publish an article she had written on Arizona a while back and she seemed interested in exploring the Deli as an option. I gave her my contact info and assured her we could work something out but HA - she never got back to me and I jealously coveted the opportunity to get to write about them.

And that was all before I had even heard the record.

‘Welcome Back Dear Children’ is quite possibly the strongest debut album from an unsigned band I’ve ever heard. No shit. It sounds like a band at the height of their powers instead of one just getting started. Track 5, ‘Splintering’ – go see them live and watch them blow the roof off the place with this one. The recorded track is an orgasmic slow builder, taking its time till the final frenetic climax. As a double bass player I generally hate bowed bass of any kind in a rock context, but whiz Alex Hornblake uses it for maximum effect in the opening, eventually switching over to a thundering Clash-style electric bass. And these men are literate - never mind that the track is seemingly written from the perspective of a central character in Ethan Frome.

If you want to geek out like me, there are certain parts of the record written with Stephen King’s epic "The Dark Tower" series and their characters and concepts centrally in mind. Which is awesome. But don’t mistake these guys for another medieval Frodo loving rock group that writes about big ass swords or battles for evermore. Not even remotely. Listen to the second track ‘Some Kind of Chill’ and tell me the lyrics aren’t poignant to any comers. It’s a perfect pop song – tight harmonies, a peanut-butter hook (sticks to your brain like…), and a sexy slide break just to indie it up a bit.

Arizona and I were able to trade a barrage of emails while the band was out on tour in the western half of the US.

Tell me a bit about how Arizona formed.

Arizona started when Nick, Alex and Ben met in New York to record for fun over a week in December 2004. Ben and Alex were childhood friends and former band mates from New York. Nick and Alex played in a grunge rock band named Yellow and Green more recently in Atlanta where they met. Eventually the band absorbed Andrew and James, originally from Atlanta band Saint Jude after parting with our original drummer and wishing to collaborate further with Andrew who had made a brief but substantial appearance during the recording and mixing of Welcome Back Dear Children.

How did you form and put together a such a great record (Welcome Back Dear Children) so quickly? You're an extremely young band that sound like you've been together for years.

We've all traded each others' music and were fans of each other for years before we formed a band. We were able to get into each others heads very quickly, and write with each other in mind. We also are manic individuals, so we create quickly when we're on a roll. Having a sense of flow and spontaneity was very important to keeping our ideas and perspectives fresh.

OK, I may be way off base here, but I'm going to ask it anyway. In Te Amo Tanto, I heard some lyrics that sound like they could be referencing Steven King's 7 book epic masterpiece, The Dark Tower and its main character Roland. There are many many other moments on the record where it seems the world the lyrics refer to could be the same world. Was this an influence on the record and the writing process, and if so, how much?

There are a few songs on the record which are directly influenced by characters or events from The Dark Tower series; in general I (Ben) imagined King's 'mid-world' (the setting of The Dark Tower) while making my sonic contributions to WBDC. If you've read the series, you know there are 13 magic orbs that are crucial to the story, and there are 13 tracks on WBDC. The order of the tracks roughly emulates the emotional journey of King's characters. In addition to Te Amo Tanto, which references 'the beam' (a geographical feature of King's imaginary landscape), a majorly 'Tower influenced track is "David" – which is about Roland's pet hawk of the same name. Nick wrote "On Judgment Day" but the subject of that song and its placement on the album is pretty Tower even though Nick never read the books.

On Splintering, how in the world did you come up with that marvelous 'dodododo' climax before the final chorus? I could swear when that final chorus kicks in I'm listening to some lost Queen classic that's never been released.

Well when we recorded that one, we had a pretty good idea of the song form and structure, so recording it was more a matter of documentation than it was a writing/recording process. However, we had laid down some scratch guitar tracks to record drums to, and the original idea was to have that be just a real army of guitar harmonization moment, but we didn't record any lead guitar scratches. Our drummer at the time, Matt, was having trouble keeping track of the buildup (since it wasn't there yet) so we started singing the guitar parts into the talk back mic for him to hear in his headphones. Eventually the "dododos" really started to grow on us, and the part gained a more vocal feel.

What was it like working with Danny Kadar (producer/engineer/mixer)?

It's like having a sherpa. We're going to climb the mountain, and we were already on the way having recorded several album cuts on our own, but Danny was someone who steered us in a new direction. Having Danny in the room allowed us to relax and focus on our creativity, knowing that someone experienced was in the room - the pressure was no longer on us solely to make something happen. Danny is also just a cool guy in general, and his presence had a generally chill effect that allowed us to work in new ways.

Your album comes with a really gorgeous and surreal watercolor poster done by Deems. When I perused his website, it looks like he developed artwork for each of the tracks on the album, and they really fit and flow with the themes you're exploring. How did you coordinate your music and images so well?

It was a long process as we went through several different styles and ideas before finding the final look for Welcome Back Dear Children. Deems initially played with a vector-based graphic that looked like it could have been either a frozen lake or a snow powdered desert, with crazy beautiful faces drifting up from the ground, and a flowering tree where four children who seemed made of light were dancing. Then we went with something that was almost like "Kill 'em All" with a giant, brutal looking hammer. Then finally, Deems came up with what you see in the actual artwork, which still incorporates the hammer and also the four children made of light. The tree made its way onto the actual CD, and the little graphic on the back of the CD is a drawing Deems did when he was very very young (like 3).

Deems said that he reached the final version by just putting on the record and painting what he saw. Totally in keeping with how we work, just closing your eyes and trusting that the art is out there to be caught and that you've got a sharp connection to the place you need to go to catch it. In this case, the music was the bridge Deems used to get into our minds and souls so that once there he could discover the art which would please us most, and yank it in one move into reality. Once the WBDC album was out, we wanted another chance to work with Deems before enticing him to work on our upcoming third recording. We commissioned him to make 7 drawings for major songs from the WBDC record; again he just put the songs on in the background and drew what he saw. Once Deems gets his mind hooked around a concept, he's just gotta reel it in. If he wanted to do, he could make a million brilliant album covers because he is so good at finding the unique substance at the heart of any subject; but because this guy is a real artist, he's going to do his best work when he's out there on his own casting for ideas in his own zone. We'd love for him to spend a lot of time fishing in ours as well however! Nothing makes us happier than a new piece of Arizona related Deems art.

Do you have any upcoming touring plans? Where are you now?

Right now we're in Fort Collins, Colorado. We'll be touring more in the near future, though no plans are solid right now. This tour has been great. We initially opened for The Slip, who were amazing musicians and people, and then we had the pleasure of opening for Band of Horses who brought an amazing vibe and presence to the stage. It's our first tour and we've all been blown away by how lucky we've been to share stages with bands of that level. We will be playing the Annex in NYC on April 18th with Hymns, Micheal Leviton, and Frances.

What are you working on now?

We're always making music on our own or in a group. We're doing some scoring for an indie film directed by Chusy Jardine at the moment. We've got a new EP that will be ready to release in late Spring, so we'll be finalizing everything with that as well.


"We've all traded each others' music and were fans of each other for years before we formed a band. We were able to get into each others heads very quickly, and write with each other in mind. We also are manic individuals, so we create quickly when we're on a roll. Having a sense of flow and spontaneity was very important to keeping our ideas and perspectives fresh."


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what it is

Warm and friendly orchestral rock